World Autism Day is an annual celebration of autistic people to raise awareness of developmental disorders and neurodivergence.

You can show support on World Autism Day by posting about autism, celebrating neurodiversity at local events, and listening to the stories of neurodiverse individuals.

What Is World Autism Day?

Since autism is a spectrum disorder, there are many manifestations of this condition. While autism symptoms are likely to be apparent in children as young as 2 years old, many people do not receive an official diagnosis of autism until later in life.

This day is celebrated on April 2 every year, as designated by the United Nations. Some nations, like the United Kingdom, celebrate Autism Awareness Week around World Autism Day. Other countries, like the United States, also celebrate World Autism Month throughout April.

The History of World Autism Day

The United Nations prioritizes promoting and celebrating diversity among all nations. They highlight equal rights for all, including those who are neurodivergent, have physical disabilities, or have developmental disabilities like autism. This is why the UN promotes and supports World Autism Day.

In 2007, the National General Assembly at the UN declared April 2 to be World Autism Awareness Day, and it was supported by all member states unanimously. In 2008, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was formed to ensure the full and equal rights of every human being, promoting universal human rights and protecting those who suffer from discrimination or violence. This convention protects neurodivergent individuals, including children and adults on the autism spectrum.

In 2021, the secretary-general’s message regarding World Autism Day stated that all people on the autism spectrum have the right to self-determination, autonomy, and independence. This includes the right to a full education and to employment on an equal basis to their neurotypical peers.

The message acknowledged difficulties in 2021 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, which has torn apart in-person support systems. It is more important than ever to come together and support each other in the safest ways possible.

World Autism Day 2022

In 2022, April 2 marks the 15th annual World Autism Awareness Day. It’s likely that this year will include a combination of both virtual and in-person events.

World Autism Day 2021

In 2021, World Autism Day was celebrated online. Like all years, the day served as a good opportunity to learn more about autism, educate friends and family, and enjoy the company of others who celebrate neurodiversity. Opportunities included craft groups, online gaming meetups, and educational workshops.

World Autism Day Celebrations in 2020

In 2020, World Autism Day’s theme was “The Transition to Adulthood.” This period can be challenging for many people on the autism spectrum because it requires learning new skills, transitioning out of familiar environments, and gaining greater independence.

International events focused on the importance of participating in youth culture, both with neurotypical peers and with other peers who were on the autism spectrum. Information was also provided about finding secondary school education, handling the transition after graduating from high school, and seeking employment so people on the autism spectrum can support themselves.

Ways to Show Support

These are just a few ways to indicate that you support and care about people on the autism spectrum.

  1. Raise money
    Hold a bake sale. Sell items on eBay. Knit scarves and sell them on Etsy. Think of ways to generate funds, and send the total to the autism organization that means the most to you.
  2. Run for the cause
    Jog alongside other autism advocates and raise money. Reach out to your local autism organization to find a race near you.
  3. Spread the word
    Share updates about your work on your social media channels with the hashtag #AutismAwarenessMonth, or tag the organization you’re supporting in each post you write.
  4. Attend an event
    Organizations like the Autism Society hold fundraising events to spread awareness, celebrate, and generate funds. Head to an event close to you, or hold one of your own to raise money.
  5. Move toward acceptance
    Help your family and community move beyond awareness to acceptance. A great resource for this is the book Welcome to the Autistic Community, which is available for free online.

Prioritizing Acceptance

Many autism advocates stress that autism awareness isn’t the goal since most people are aware of autism. Instead, autism acceptance is the goal.

Autism acceptance means listening to autistic individuals and learning from their stories. For many, World Autism Awareness Day jumpstarts a month dedicated to autism appreciation and broader acceptance.

Supporting Your Autistic Loved Ones

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 44 children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

A pediatrician’s screening and diagnosis are typically very reliable by the time a child reaches 2 years old, although you may notice behavioral signs in your child when they are as young as 6 months. Screening for developmental disorders like autism is a common part of developmental monitoring and developmental screening in modern medicine.

Autism occurs at similar rates across all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. However, boys are about four times as likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls.

Over time, autism diagnoses have become more common. In 2000, about 1 in 150 children received a diagnosis of autism. This increased diagnosis trend signifies changes in diagnostic criteria, along with more frequent and consistent childhood screenings.

A leading treatment to help children with autism, applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy can teach skills, improve communication, and promote independence.

ABA therapy does not attempt to change your child or “cure” them. ABA recognizes that much of the world is not built to support people on the autism spectrum. By teaching children with autism social cues and how to navigate complex communication, ABA therapy can help them to become independent adults.

Using the Day to Appreciate Autism

World Autism Awareness Day helps neurotypical individuals recognize that the world is a better place when we all understand neurodivergence, like autism spectrum disorder, and work to accommodate these differences.

No matter how you celebrate the day, it can be a good opportunity to stop and really listen to autistic people in your life and the world around you.